Sunday, October 25, 2020

Mixed Media Pumpkins!

You guys. It's the week of Halloween. I think there's gonna be a full moon. And it's 2020. The year that literally everything, including MURDER HORNETS (did we give up on those already?) descended upon us. For that reason, I'm treading REAL lightly this week...and I thought you might be too. For that reason, I created this lesson. To save us all.
Need a handout to give your students some ideas while drawing? I created one but only have a rachet looking version for y'all as I didn't have time to do it justice. I'm blaming 2020. Anywho, here you go and may the force be with all y'all! 

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Wednesday, September 23, 2020

Painting Parties for Pattern and Line Review (and FUN!)

We kicked off the school year with my mask project and my emotions lesson and we've now started working on a school wide collaborative piece. This is something we've done most school years...and it seems to be really fitting now that we are all back together. Time to celebrate! 

When we do our big collaboratives, my students each make small parts (I share in the video below) that are attached to a large mural. To create the large mural backdrop, my students create these massive painted papers that I collage together. It all makes a whole lot more sense when I share it least I hope it does!
Storing these papers is a bit of a beast, especially when they aren't quite dry. We had them draped EVERYWHERE today! However, now that we have so many painted, I can start to create the background for their completed works of art. 
Until those are ready to share, I think if you visit this blog post, you'll get a better picture of what it is we're going for. 
My first graders will be doing a mural similar to this one with the flowers they created. In the video, I mentioned that our mural will be based on the Louis Armstrong song What a Wonderful World. Each portion of the song will have it's own mural piece with artwork created attached. 

Here's another one we did a couple of years ago. 
I'm seriously so tired, I hope I'm making some sort of sense! I will say that my students have loved working on this mural, especially creating these large pattern papers! 
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Monday, September 21, 2020

Art Teacherin' in 2020: New Favorite Hacks for the New School Year

Anyone else out there feeling like a first year teacher every single art teacherin' day? ME TOO! Isn't it great?!

(insert yeah-that's-sarcasm face here)

Finally, after nearly two months of the new school year, and my endless changes to how I run my newly formated art room, I feel like I just might have it figured out...knock on wood. Like, all of it. 

Today I thought I'd take you on a little room tour and share some of my fave new hacks for the new school year. 

Now, I know we all have different teaching environments right you'll have to take all of what I share with a salt lick. Some might work for you, some might not. Hopefully I have something that might help you and your students. 

I think now, more than ever, a positive mindset is what our students need and what's going to make these new changes bearable. 

Now, let's take a little tour!
And now for a little bit of a closer look:
My mask on a lanyard makes it so I never misplace it again!
This is my art room at the start of the year with my students at their desks. I HATED it. I felt like a Charlie Brown teacher. I desperately needed them to meet me back on the floor for instruction as we've always done. After chatting with my admin, they agreed that I have the space to make it work. Here's a look at my new set up:
Check out the video to see how all tables, chairs, line up spots and floor spots are numbered to coordinate with the order the classroom teachers have established. 
After the first day of teaching, I was online shopping for a mic. This one has saved my sanity and my voice. 
All my stuff manages to grow legs and walk away because I'm miserable about setting something down and forgetting where I put it. Having a drop spot for all of my stuff has really helped.

Here's to us, y'all. We can do this! 

Sunday, August 16, 2020

Let's Make Mask Emotions!

After one week of teaching my students, I noticed something. I am having a hard time gauging their emotions. And, right now, I know they are experiencing many feelings. On Tuesday, I had the amazing opportunity to sit down with Dr. Gilboa and I learned so much about how to manage my own stress this new school year. She also touched on how our students may be feeling and letting them know that their feelings are valid and valued. You can listen to part one of our chat in my Cassie Stephens podcast right here.

Her conversation inspired me to create this lesson that I'll be doing with both my virtual and in person first grade students this upcoming week. I'm even thinking that I may do it with my second graders as well. 
I think the kids will not only enjoy this lesson but, hopefully, find a way to express themselves. Even if this activity just gets them talking about sharing their feelings, then my job is done. Ultimately, I plan to take photos of my students "wearing" these masks while talking about emotions. For example, "I am happy, when..." But that is still a lesson I'm working on. For now, we are starting here. 
My older students will be working on these too. If you haven't seen this lesson, you might want to give it a try. 

I share my lessons freely but lately I've noticed that some folks are taking my lessons, recreating them and selling them on TPT. I beg you to stop. If you use my lessons, all I ask is that you just give credit when it's asked. Taking someone's intellectual property and selling it as your own is stealing. So, like, don't. 

Have a great week, y'all! Stay tuned for Part 2 of my interview with Dr. G to be out soon!

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Friday, August 14, 2020

Top Tips for Surviving Back to School!

Today I was asked if I was ready to return to school next week and I just nearly spit out my coffee. 

Like, wait. What? 

OMG. I do start back to school next week! It's not even next week, y'all. It's down to just mere days and hours. Minutes even. How in the world did I slip into such daze of delightful denial that I had forgotten? 

Okay. I'll be honest. I have not forgotten. It's been on my mind since July. 

As a teacher, I think of July as a month-long version of Sunday night. You teachers know what I'm talking about: Sunday night is the one time of the week that you dread because you literally spend the evening running through all the work that lies ahead. What's first-grade learning? Is second grade finished painting or will I need to prep paint trays in the morning? Fourth grade was on a field trip so half of them are behind while the other half is who's doing what tomorrow? Third grade, did I plan a lesson for third grade? And, kindergarten. Lord have mercy on my soul, what will I do with kindergarten tomorrow?! 

If that's our average Sunday night then y'all know what our month of July feels like. Especially in the midst of this wild world we are living in. 

Needless to say...I have been having just a tiny bit of trouble relaxing (ahem). But I have found some ways that have been working for me and I thought I'd share them here. Let's start with something I've recently mentioned on Season 2, Episodes 1 and 2 of my podcast: BLISS.
This morning, I was going over all the things I needed to do today and I started to have trouble calming myself down. I've only had a couple of panic attacks before (once during my third year of teaching when I MELTED DOWN A KILN and immediately lost sight in my left eye and was sent home. Good times) but this morning, I noticed that the feeling over being overwhelmed was effecting my breath. Meaning...I couldn't catch it. Not a good feeling at all. Then I remembered my acronym BLISS. 

The B is for Breathe. It helps when breathing to have a gatha or a phrase that you say mentally as you inhale and exhale. What this will do is help you to focus on your breathe. Just taking a deep breathe and exhaling is great but, if you are like me, your mind will rapidly move to what it is you are currently fixated on. So if I have myself mentally say, 'Breathing in, I am calm; Breathing out, I can relax,' it really helps. Try looking up gathas or writing some for yourself. If, after a couple of breaths you aren't feeling better, keep trying. Breathe deeper. Relax your shoulders. Focus on the present. You'll get there. 

The L is for List Your Gratitudes. By that I just mean, while you are breathing, stop and take a look around the space you are in. Mentally list off what you are thankful for. Currently, I'm thankful for a comfy chair, a cup of coffee and the sewing room I am sitting in. You don't have to write it down. Just take in the present, 

The I is for Indulge in Your Feelings. Look, things are not easy right now. It's okay to have all the feelings. I've mostly felt confused (by the tons of emails) and overwhelmed (by knowing that the load on my teacherin' plate is about to get bigger) and upset (because I know I won't be able to do it all). And I think it's okay to get all up in your feelings now and then. As long as we don't live in that space, I think it's fine. 

The S is for Stop Reading Social Media. When have you EVER hopped off social media and felt like that was time well spent? I mean...I am an epic social media time waster! I spent a couple of days this summer completely off social and not only did I not miss it but I felt so much lighter. I recommend a little social media vacay if you can. 

And the last S is for Surround Yourself with Joy...whatever that may mean for you. For's creating, sewing and painting. If I don't take my creative vitamins, I swear I go through a withdrawal.
Wanna know what is keeping me up at night and my mind on a constant hamster wheel of thoughts? LESSON PLANNING. I keep thinking "how can I possibly provide my students with the best art education they deserve if I'm on a cart or on a screen or they are spaced so far apart?!" This little phrase right here has been helping me keep a positive mindset. 

Your only limitation is your imagination.. 

I was chatting with an art teacher the other day who has been teaching for 31 years. I've been at it for 22. Neither of us have EVER seen anything like this current teaching state. Which means...we are all in this together! It doesn't matter how long you've been teaching, this is a challenge for us all. Her mindset was, "a challenge can be fun." And she's right! Not the kind of 'fun' any of us signed up for...but if we think of it as a challenge and accept it as such, maybe it will push some of us out of our teaching comfort zone. This challenge has the potential of making better teachers of us all. 

All that to say...I'm still not ready! I'm still not sleeping well! I've been having my BTSN (Back to School Nightmares) like crazy and they seem to be even worse this time around. Y'all, I had a dream that there were WOLVES in the school the other night. My mind is on overdrive! I shared this with my friend Virginia who recommended I start at the beginning of the alphabet and think of all the foods I could. I got to the letter H before I had to get out of bed and hit the kitchen for a snack. All that did was make me hungry! 

A couple times this month, when sleep has completely illuded me, I've tried Melatonin by Natrol. I had no clue what Melatonin was until recently. It's a natural hormone that your body creates to let you know when to hit the hay and get outta bed. Twice this month, when my mind wouldn't allow me to rest at all, I found this to help. I even woke up without my standard morning headache (do y'all get those?!) which was a nice surprise. 
Just know...that if you are feeling a little panicky and overwhelmed, it's okay. Also, just know that yours truly will be teaching children in THIS ROOM next week and what you see right here is the clean and tidy side. 
Also know that my face has permanently frozen this way (just as mama said it would) as I've made it so many times when asked "Are you ready for school to start?!" Hahah, yep! Sure am! Doesn't it look like it?!

In all seriousness, y'all, we got this. We handled it like champs in March when it came out of nowhere and we suddenly found ourselves as YouTubers, videographers, Zoom-Call champs and more. We can do this new thing and we'll be doin' it together. Love y'all! Mean it! 
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